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The Reservoir

ISSUE:  Winter 1993
The church steeple swims up
through deepening green, submerged, the clock’s hands
rusting at ten past six, and the bell’s
clapper drifts back and forth, unable to strike
the metal sides with any force. The red tile roof
of the rectory opposite clouds with algae
that lifts in sheets off the slope, wavering
when the others cannonball into the water: explosion,
white froth, legs kicking up through bubbles and light.
The boy is afraid to come too close to those roofs,
a whole town below his feet: maybe his grandmother’s
small white squares of lace float
in a room down there, the ones
she put under the candy dish to keep
from scratching the sideboard; maybe shadows ripple,
water breathing in and out, and something
scrapes its belly along the quarry floor.
He’d like to try going deep, to look
in windows like the other kids,
but a voice says no, no, inside his head
this time as he stands, ready to jump.
He wants
to listen to that voice. He wants to hear
what else it will tell him but he can’t
keep Main Street from ribboning through his mind,
can’t keep himself from seeing streetlamps intact and the
  letters “f” and “e”
rotting through the sign on the 5-and-10-cent store.
Waves of silt shift over the sidewalk, perch
beckon and flash, the light slipping
down their shingled sides as they hang in the VFW door—
the boy shakes his head to clear it,
and paces in place, grinding one foot after the other
into the flaky gray shale; the green scum
trailing off the street sign—is it Elm Street? Oak Lane?—
billows into his mind while the voice buoys up,
unplumbed, inside him, saying no, no, sounding now through fathoms of water
as his feet push away from warm stone, the cliffs edge,
and the boy leaps up, rising into blue sky, gulping air.


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